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Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes

Paul Burke 17 Sep 11 - 07:24 PM
GUEST 17 Sep 11 - 10:14 PM
Helen 18 Sep 11 - 03:29 AM
GUEST,SRD 18 Sep 11 - 11:27 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 18 Sep 11 - 12:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Sep 11 - 02:10 PM
MGM·Lion 18 Sep 11 - 03:12 PM
Helen 18 Sep 11 - 04:14 PM
Paul Burke 18 Sep 11 - 05:12 PM
Bainbo 18 Sep 11 - 06:00 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Sep 11 - 04:45 AM
GUEST,Ktb 30 Mar 14 - 02:02 PM
GUEST 30 Mar 14 - 02:09 PM
GUEST,Guest 23 Dec 15 - 01:55 PM
GUEST,Ebor Fiddler 23 Dec 15 - 04:59 PM
Richard Mellish 23 Dec 15 - 05:40 PM
GUEST,padgett 24 Dec 15 - 03:18 PM
GUEST 24 Dec 15 - 10:46 PM
GUEST 24 Dec 15 - 10:46 PM
Paul Burke 25 Dec 15 - 05:05 PM
Mr Red 26 Dec 15 - 04:51 AM
GUEST 14 Jan 16 - 12:07 AM
GUEST,Lynda Perrie 20 Jan 16 - 06:44 AM
GUEST,dáithí 21 Jan 16 - 04:51 AM
GUEST 21 Jan 16 - 07:32 PM
Thompson 11 Nov 17 - 04:35 AM
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Subject: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Sep 11 - 07:24 PM

So where/ when did the phrase originate? Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has no entry; Google comes up with references to it being well known in America in the 1850s, but no details; Q referred to it in Troy Town in 1888 as a cliche in middle- class England. You'd think that such a commonplace, vaguely literary, phrase would have a book origin. But no, and no one seems to know where/ how it arose. Can the Cat do better?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Sep 11 - 10:14 PM

Use Bing.com - substitue GADS


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Helen
Date: 18 Sep 11 - 03:29 AM

My Mum used to say it, and I think her Mum did too. My Grandmother was Welsh, but lived in Somerset, England since she was young, then moved to Australia. We are in NSW, Australia.

(Slight thread creep: My Grandmother also used to say "Ach y fi", pronounced Uck-a-Vee, with the emphasis on Uck, which apparently is an expression of disgust, and another saying, when she was trying to do something and it wasn't working, which sounded something like Doo-a-na-la-beat (with emphasis on Doo & beat). I can't remember it exactly, and have no idea of the correct spelling or what it means.)

I'm surprised that the answer to the question about gods & fishes is so elusive. It's a mystery that, as far as I can see, even Mr Google cannot solve - yet, although I only dipped my toe in the pool of information & speculation on the issue.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST,SRD
Date: 18 Sep 11 - 11:27 AM

Many, many years ago, possibly even as far back as my childhood, I recall reading that it was derived from a password during medieaval times:
'Ye loaves and little fishes' to be replied to with 'The net is full'

The origins being biblical.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 18 Sep 11 - 12:25 PM

Ye gods and little fishes a travesty on the Argonautic expedition in quest of the golden fleece

by James A. Henshall, M. D., designs by J. L. Ludlow.
Published 1900 by The Robert Clarke company in Cincinnati.

OPEN LIBRARY
openlibrary.org/books/OL7112157M/Ye_gods_and_little_fishes

INTERNET ARCHIVE
archive.org/details/yegodslittlefish00hensrich

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

44 uses of the word or varition "god"

Amusing drivel - well worth a tune.

Read the verse

But lyres and fishes, ever since that day,
Are strangely coupled, but this way
The liars follow fishes lie in wait,
And then, when caught, again they lie in weight.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Sep 11 - 02:10 PM

Expanding a bit on gargoyle's post-

Oxford Journals, Notes & Queries.
"Ye Gods and Little Fishes"
"In the 10 May 1902 issue of this journal a correspondent identified as Q.R.B. posed a query that to this day remains unsolved."

"In 1900, the famed American fly-fisherman and fishing tackle inventor Dr. James A. Henshall employed the phrase as the title of a verse adventure book subtitled "A Travesty on the Argonatic Expedition in Quest of the Golden Fleece."

A Mr Nace, who wrote this article, may give further information but I do not have access to the journal.

Why is this momentous question still unsolved? Are earlier possibilities given in the body of the article?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 18 Sep 11 - 03:12 PM

Several posts on this expression in thread from July 2005

"RE: BS: Expressions and where they came from"

which I located by searching above.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Helen
Date: 18 Sep 11 - 04:14 PM

Guest, SRD said:

'Ye loaves and little fishes' to be replied to with 'The net is full'

It's probably worth noting that the term "ye" in this sense is a common misrepresentation of the word "the", based on the Anglo-Saxon letter for one of the "th" sounds, which vaguely looks like a "y". So Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe is as phony as it looks and sounds. "Ye gods", on the other hand, is more correct, because "ye" in this sense is the plural of "thee" (singular), where "you" is singular & plural in modern English.

It probably doesn't help the discussion, but it might be relevant.

The idea of a password and response is interesting.


MtheGM, I'm about to go off to work, so I'll check out the thread search later.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Paul Burke
Date: 18 Sep 11 - 05:12 PM

Thanks GmoftheMvariety. I'd forgoten I'd posted to that thread. And I stand by what I said then- it's a minced blasphemy. But it's surprising that the phrase seems to have no literary provenance.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Bainbo
Date: 18 Sep 11 - 06:00 PM

I was sure I'd first come across the phrase in my childhood reading. And, sure enough, in Billy Bunter Of Greyfriars School, the fat owl of the remove, known for his appetite and his lack of scruples, is discovered by his fellow students trying to purloin someone else's tuck hamper:

"Of course, it's not exactly the tuck I'm thinking of. I don't really care much for tuck, as you fellows know?." 


"Ye gods and little fishes!" 



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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Sep 11 - 04:45 AM

Possibly this - and got changed on the way
Jim Carroll

JULIUS CAESAR
Ye gods, it doth amaze me,
A man of such, a feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world,
And bear the palm alone.

Act i; scene ii


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST,Ktb
Date: 30 Mar 14 - 02:02 PM

Only knowledge of this phrase is from my grandmother - born in 1897 in Norwich, Norfolk - this was the closest to swearing that she got!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Mar 14 - 02:09 PM

The american actor W.C. Fields also uttered this phrase in an early film. bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 23 Dec 15 - 01:55 PM

My mother always said, "Ye gods and little fishes"... When I took four years of Latin, I was surprised to find one of the phrases that they we translated became :   "Ye Gods and little fishes". I just don't remember where it was. We translated The Iliad, The Odyssey, the Gallic Wars by Caesar, and many other historical/literary works...Hope you find it!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST,Ebor Fiddler
Date: 23 Dec 15 - 04:59 PM

If it's Classics you're thinking of, I would suggest The Aeneid. Homer wrote in Greek and Latin translations would be unusual. Caesar's De Gallo Bellico would be an unlikely source as well, as its main purpose was to glorify its author and had very little, or no vocalisation. It is basically a third person report to the Senate.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 23 Dec 15 - 05:40 PM

World Wide Words has some information.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST,padgett
Date: 24 Dec 15 - 03:18 PM

Our Physics teacher had two little phrases


"Ye gods and little fishes" and "Blood and sand"

Ray


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Dec 15 - 10:46 PM

This phrase just came up again in a discussion with family today. My parents both grew up with it from their parents and their contemporaries so 1895-1920's born. My parents are the end of the depression era. Wish I could tell from the posts above which is the definitive source. My parents are very well educated/well read and well versed in Latin (and mom in some Greek) . . . but are at a loss.

Thanks for all the comments above!!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Dec 15 - 10:46 PM

This phrase just came up again in a discussion with family today. My parents both grew up with it from their parents and their contemporaries so 1895-1920's born. My parents are the end of the depression era. Wish I could tell from the posts above which is the definitive source. My parents are very well educated/well read and well versed in Latin (and mom in some Greek) . . . but are at a loss.

Thanks for all the comments above!!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Paul Burke
Date: 25 Dec 15 - 05:05 PM

Good one Richard. That pushes it 30 years back from Arthur Quiller Couch, and across the Atlantic. Troy Town, for those who haven't read it, is about a Fenian plot sustained by aristocratic impersonation, the better to play on the middle- class sensibilities of the petty snobs of a small provincial town. And much of the plot involves the expectation of a ship from America.

Read it, it's much better than my pallid description. Find out the significance of cumeelfo.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Mr Red
Date: 26 Dec 15 - 04:51 AM

cumeelfo - but click on Lees meer


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Jan 16 - 12:07 AM

My great aunt (of my grandmother's generation - and I'm 66) used this expression a lot. She also would add a second line, "wooden spoons and iron dishes!" I have no idea at all where the expression came from, or if she made up this second line, but the entire piece has a wonderful ring to it and conveys stunned astonishment to a "T". She and our whole family are/were rock-ribbed New Englanders.

Ye gods and little fishes,
Wooden spoons and iron dishes,,


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST,Lynda Perrie
Date: 20 Jan 16 - 06:44 AM

Funny how the thought of this phrase should suggest it has come from America, my grandma used to use this often and she emigrated to America in 1912 before returning back 8 years later.
For some unknown reason it came into my head just the other day, hence my investigating, also with reference to the comment above, my dad also used the saying " Blood and sand" too.
Funny old world ay!!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST,dáithí
Date: 21 Jan 16 - 04:51 AM

It may be a euphemism for "God and Little Jesus"; similar mechanism to "God's Wounds" becoming "Zounds", or "God's Hooks" becoming "Gazooks"...?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Jan 16 - 07:32 PM

Monsieur Rouge- the thread started all those years ago with Troy Town. You've found it - if on a Dutch website- now go and read it. And read "The Delectable Duchy" too. It's nothing to do with Prince Charles's biscuits.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ye Gods and Little Fishes
From: Thompson
Date: 11 Nov 17 - 04:35 AM

Google's Ngram Viewer, which tracks words and phrases used in printed materials, has it appearing around 1825. Without the "Ye" it appears around 1817. So look for some early-19th-century humorist as its originator. It has that kind of thumbs-in-the-braces, rocking-on-the-toes clubbable feel about it.


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